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Les McKeown's Predictable Success Blog

  • August 10, 2010
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Google, the schizoid organization 

Last week I published a graphic showing where I believed various organizations and industries were located on the Predictable Success lifecycle.Uniquely, I placed Google in two separate locations – Whitewater and Treadmill, and a number of people asked why – so here’s the rationale:

Although to the outside world it appears to be pretty much a poster child for Predictable Success, Google is in essence a schizophrenic organization. On the one hand its legacy business (paid search ads) is in Treadmill (in fact, bordering on The Big Rut: near-monopoly, huge cash flow, patronizing attitude to users, hubristic attitude to alternatives) while the aggregate effect of all the other “discretionary 20%” activities (Wave, etc.,) has a Whitewater-like effect on the overall organization.

[To be strictly correct, many of those ‘discretionary’ initiatives like the recently discontinued Google Wave, are actually in Early Struggle or Fun – it’s the cumulative effect of managing all of those activities together that creates the Whitewater effect.]

The end result is that internally, I’d be prepared to bet that there is a rapidly widening set of tensions and frustrations that are causing increasing inefficiencies, a loss of direction and decreasing morale. Almost certainly this will be rationalized away – at least for a while – as simply examples of the creative tensions that made Google great in the first place, but this is a category error, and eventually the structure, management and even the mission of the company will need to be radically altered if Google is to maintain its past supremacy.

Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if the business is eventually split into two separate entities.


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